Blue Lines: Massive Attack’s blueprint for UK pop’s future

From The Guardian:

The three members of Massive Attack were invited to do a DJ set on a French radio programme some time back in the early 90s. Having written about and befriended the group back then, I was lucky enough to receive one of the few cassette-only recordings of the set. It offered an illuminating glimpse of the musical undercurrents they’d drawn on in making their groundbreaking debut album, Blue Lines, released in 1991.

Alongside rare hip-hop and soul tracks their set threw up some surprising choices: the pioneering Chicago house tune Can You Feel It by Mr Fingers; the brooding spoken-word track Sons and Daughters by the Neville Brothers; the discordant Poptones by John Lydon’s post-punk collective Public Image Ltd.

With Soul II Soul’s Club Classics Vol. One (1989) and Young Disciples’ Road to Freedom (1991), Blue Lines is now seen as an album that marked the coming of age of British dance music. More than that, it highlighted the breadth of the group’s influences and suggested a range of compositional and textural possibilities that resonate in popular music to this day. Now, 21 years after its release, Blue Lines has been remastered and repackaged for a seemingly inexhaustible pop heritage market in both a regular and deluxe edition. It’s brighter, clearer and sharper, but the standout songs still sound utterly unlike anything before or since in their seamless merging of propulsive beats, brooding melodies and dark atmospherics. You can marvel again at the epic sweep of Unfinished Sympathy, the defiant thrust of Safe from Harm and the narcotic sway of Daydreaming, songs that have influenced two generations of electronic musicians, from Radiohead, Moby and Unkle through to Air, Hot Chip and Burial and on to such disparate contemporary artists as the xx and Emeli Sandé.

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